Diphtheria is a serious illness. Doctors treat it
immediately and aggressively with these medications:
After doctors confirm that a person has diphtheria, the infected
child or adult receives a special antitoxin. The antitoxin
neutralizes the diphtheria toxin already circulating in your body.
The antitoxin is injected into a vein (intravenously) or into a
muscle (intramuscular injection). But first, doctors may perform
skin allergy tests to make sure that the infected person doesn't
have an allergy to the antitoxin. Persons who are allergic must be
desensitized to the antitoxin first. Doctors accomplish this by
giving small doses of the antitoxin initially and then gradually
increasing the dosage.
Diphtheria is also treated with antibiotics, such as penicillin or
erythromycin. Antibiotics help kill bacteria in the body, clearing
up infections. Antibiotics reduce to just a few days the length of
time that a person with diphtheria is contagious.
Children and adults who have diphtheria often need to be
in the hospital for treatment. They may be isolated in an intensive care
unit because diphtheria is very contagious to anyone not immunized
against the disease.
Doctors may remove some of the thick, gray covering in
the throat if the covering is obstructing breathing.
There may be other complications of diphtheria that need
treatment. Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) is treated with
medications. In advanced cases, a person with diphtheria may need the
assistance of a machine that helps them breathe (ventilator) until the
infection is successfully treated.
If you've been exposed to a person infected with diphtheria, see a
doctor for testing and possible treatment. Your doctor may give you a
prescription for antibiotics to help prevent you from getting the
infection. You may also need a booster dose of the diphtheria vaccine.
Doctors treat people who are found to be carriers of
diphtheria with antibiotics to clear their systems of the bacteria, as
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